By Kristin Schultz
NISKAYUNA — The Lecce Group is looking to fire up the backhoes once again. This time, the development group has filed applications for four separate projects in town.
The plans are in the early stages of design and approval with the Lecce Group likely to go before the planning board this month.
“We’re busy. It’s an exciting time,” said Shane Mahar, the Lecce Group’s chief operating office. “We live in the community and are investing back into Niskayuna.”
Since the projects are still in preliminary stages, the Lecce Group does not yet have a timeline for completion. The company expects to work through the approval process and move ahead as plans are green-lighted.
The projects are a mix of residential and commercial that stretch from Eastern Avenue to Rosendale Road. Some projects will need to be approved by the zoning, planning and town boards while others will not need zoning approval.
There is a vacant building at 2143 and 2147 Eastern Parkway, just across from Congregation Gates of Heaven that once housed a physician’s office. That physician moved out and now practices at the new Albany Medical Center building on Union Avenue, a project that Lecce developed.
The Lecce Group proposes to demolish that building and replace it with a three-story, 15,000-square-foot multiuse structure. Mahar said some doctors have expressed interest in putting their offices in the new building. If approved, the physicians would practice in offices on the first floor.
The second and third floors would have five apartments each.
According to town regulations, this project would require a special-use permit from the Town Board and site-plan approval from the Planning Board.
Replacing an eyesore?
The corner of Balltown Road and Union Street has long featured one of Niskayuna’s most prominent eyesores — a vacant and condemned home on the southwest corner.
The Lecce Group has applied to raze the structure at 1840 Union St. and build in its place a one-story residential-style building that would become the development group’s office headquarters. The front of the building would face the intersection with parking in the rear. The entrance to the offices would be in the same general place as the current driveway off Balltown Road.
The town’s Conservation Advisory Council saw plans for this project and according to chairman William Lee, the group expressed concerns about putting yet another commercial property on that stretch of Upper Union Street.
Lee noted that homeowners on that stretch of road could find it harder to sell their homes in an increasingly commercial area.
The project would require a use variance from the Zoning Board and site plan approval from the Planning Board.
The Lecce Group submitted plans to build two homes on the corner of Pearse Road and Whitney Drive. There is currently a home on the one acre site that would be demolished to make way for the two homes.
Town officials noted that there have been maintenance issues at that property.
The new homes would be located on Whitney Drive and plans would not require any use-variance or zoning changes.
Finally, The Lecce Group wants the town to approve the building of three eight-unit apartment buildings on Rosendale Road just behind the Rite Aid at the corner of Highway 7 and Rosendale.
The plan calls for replacing two current homes, one at 3511 Rosendale and the other at 3515 Rosendale, with 24 apartment units.
This plan would require a use variance from the Zoning Board and site-plan approval from the Planning Board.
Evaluating the fit
The area around these properties has slowly been redeveloped into a commercial properties.
The Planning Board and Economic Development Committee along with the Conservation Advisory Council look to consider Lecce’s and all proposals not only as individual projects, but how those projects fit — or don’t — with the town’s long-term goals.
The Planning Board noted at its last meeting that as proposals for apartment and rental units — especially so-called “luxury” units keep coming, it will be important to consider things like access to affordable housing in Niskayuna.
Mahar said Lecce’s planned apartments fit well with the neighborhood.
“The Upper Union Street corridor is walkable and close to so many amenities,” Mahar said. “If you didn’t want to own a car, you wouldn’t have to in order to accomplish day-to-day life.”
He said the proposed Rosendale development would offer walkability and easy car access to the Galleria 7 Market and surrounding shops and restaurants as well as easy access to highways and major employment centers.
“It’s the sweet spot of location and services,” Mahar said, pointing to both the efficiency of travel and the location in the desirable Niskayuna School District.
Lou Lecce has been a fixture in Niskayuna development but only recently as a developer himself. In the past, he has been the attorney for other developers, shepherding other developers’ projects through the municipal approval process. In recent years, he began to dabble in construction for himself. The Albany Medical Center building on Upper Union Street and the highly anticipated City Squire are Lecce’s two most recent projects in Niskayuna bearing his name.
It is not uncommon for the town’s approval process to take months to a year or more depending on the complexity of the project and the type of approvals a project needs to comply with town code.
It is also common for proposals to undergo a number of drafts or revisions before gaining final approval.
The next Planning Board meeting is tonight, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. at Niskayuna Town Hall.